Dare county officials say the bears go on the highways that cross the Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge to eat food that’s either litter or intentionally thrown at them.
Refuge biologist Dennis Stewart has observed that even the crinkle of a potato chip bag will get the attention of both bears, one of which hangs out off U.S. 264 near Stumpy Point and the other off U.S. 64 near East Lake. Black bears are generally shy and feeding them probably dooms them by modifying their behavior.
Whenever you have a wild animal encounter certain precautions should be adhered to. In the case of black bears, although they are generally shy there are rare cases where they can become aggressive. Follow these guidelines if such an event occurs:
If you see a bear, leave. Walk backwards at an angle. Do not disturb it. Always leave the bear an escape route.
—Don’t panic or look the bear in the eyes. He perceives your eye contact as a threat. He will stand on its back legs, sniffing the air to analyze his situation. (He has bad eyesight but a keen “sniffer.”) He may “eye” you intently. Once he identifies you as a human, he will leave.
—Pepper spray made from the juice of red hot peppers is a bear deterrent, incapacitating him and teaching them a lesson. Use it at six to eight yards.
—Do not feed them. In Pennsylvania it is illegal to do so. Feeding them makes them “food-conditioned:” A fed bear is a dead bear, according to John Hechtel, a biologist in Alaska who studies bears. He notes that 95% of food-conditioned bears eventually become nuisances and must be killed.
—Do not throw rocks or other items at bears to get their attention, even if you are after that unique bear photograph.
—If the bear is charges you, DO NOT RUN! Unless a tree is beside you, do not climb a tree, and then don’t do so unless you can climb 30 feet quickly. You cannot outrun or out-climb a black bear. Instead, stand tall, wave your arms and make loud noises—speak in aloud, deep voice.
—STAND YOUR GROUND! Often charging bears veer off within a few feet of their target, veering off in a different direction.
—If the bear attacks you, play dead. Assume the fetal position. If he perceives you as food, continuing to attack, fight back, get angry. Throw your arms up in the air, yell and scream in a deep voice, throw something at it, all showing you are in control. There is controversial evidence on “playing dead.” Some references say never do this, others say do it and only fight back if the bear attack continues.
—Never come between a sow and her cubs.
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